The Cost of Getting a Green Card

A green card, which may or may not actually be green, is a Permanent Resident Card. To have one is to be able to remain in the United States indefinitely and, most importantly, to be able to work here. Permanent Resident status is also the first step toward full citizenship, which is more advantageous than mere residency because it allows you to vote and run for office (but not President!), and protects you against deportation in the event that you are convicted of a felony. (It is a big, crucial first step. After you get to be a resident, citizenship is comparatively easy.)

The Woman Who Would Smuggle You Stateside For $35,000

In Requiem for a Snakehead, Patrick Radden Keefe writes a quick and fascinating profile of Cheng Chui Ping, aka Sister Ping, for The New Yorker. Sister Ping, who died of pancreatic cancer in federal prison last week, operated a "sophisticated immigration-smuggling ring" that brought thousands of people from Southeast China to the U.S. She is a hero, a villain, or both, depending who you ask:

Becoming a Legal Immigrant: $465

A year and a half ago, President Barack Obama announced a band-aid for the immigration system, providing two-year work permits for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children before their 16th birthdays. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had undocumented immigrants rejoicing that the door to the US had opened, if only slightly.

Yet Reyna Maldonado, who came to the US from Mexico as a child, hasn’t felt like celebrating. There was one big question weighing on her mind: “Where do we come up with this money?”

As the Guardian explains, DACA is not a path to citizenship but it can mean access to a driver’s license, a social security number, and a two-year work permit. In the 18 months since its passage however, only 50% of those eligible have actually applied. There are a lot of potential reasons for this — lack of outreach to immigrant communities, fear of deportation, the impermanence of a two-year work permit — but many speculate that a big reason is the cost itself.

The application fee for DACA eligibility is $465 per family member, which does not include the additional costs of getting school transcripts, I.D. photos, official records, and then mailing everything. A worthy investment, sure, unless you’re living below the poverty line and can’t afford to skip paying rent for a month or two. There are grants and loans available for applicants, but scams abound.

Photo: Elvert Barnes